Author Topic: Setting the (regular dinner) table...  (Read 5562 times)

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Heavenly

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Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« on: May 28, 2007, 12:16:42 PM »
On one of my other forums (birth board) there was a discussion about how to set the table.

The question was...when you set the table (for dinner) do you put spoon, knife, and fork on the table (even if not all are necessary) or do you only set the table with what is needed?

One poster stated that etiquette wise you only set with what is necessary--her example being that when you go to a nice restaurant they remove the unnecessary utensils after you have ordered because of etiquette rules.

I have been to nice restaurants where they remove utensils, but they usually just remove the soup spoon/seafood fork/salad fork/dessert spoon/etc. leaving the spoon, knife, and fork on the table.  I've never had them remove my knife or fork if I was having soup or my spoon if I was having pasta.

For my perspective--I was raised that you always put spoon, knife, and fork on the table for dinner (lunch/breakfast are separate affairs) whether you need them or not.  So I'm intrigued with the answers that were given.

Any thoughts from the etiquette gurus here?   ;)

cicero

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2007, 12:25:28 PM »
We just set the table with what's needed - knife, fork, spoon (if needed).

(i say "we" but its my sweet DS who sets the table - i trained him since he was a little kid!)

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guihong

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2007, 12:35:30 PM »
We don't set the table for everyday.  We serve ourselves from the kitchen, taking a napkin and whatever utensil is needed.  That said, I believe it's correct to set it with knife, fork and spoon.

gui



artk2002

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2007, 01:08:46 PM »
You set with what's appropriate for the meal.  Restaurants aren't good role models for this, because they have to accomodate a wide variety of meals -- many will set for the most complicated possible and then remove utensils, while some will do a standard set and add specialized utensils as needed.

At the risk of bragging, among my odd accomplishments is a blue ribbon from the Los Angeles County Fair in tablescaping.  In those compentitions, you will get marked down for having the wrong utensils for the menu.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

graceh9

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2007, 01:46:17 PM »
no guru here but I believe it is correct to put on the utensils you need for the meal -- we do that -- steak knives when there is meat -- soup spoons when there is soup and crossways above the plate if there is going to be a spoon using dessert -- we don't ever put teaspoons on the table although that is a common thing to do for some reason in the US -- the basic setting is knive and fork and then anything extra that will be needed -- we don't use  a salad fork for family meals but add it when we have formal guest meals if salad is being served

sparksals

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2007, 01:50:18 PM »
For company, I always set the table for starters and dinner.  If there is salad/soup/shrimp cocktail, I put the necessary cutlery there.  Then, when it's time for dessert, I give the dessert spoon with the plate and the teaspoon for coffee/tea when it is being served.  That's how my mom always did it for special occasion dinners. 

I find when I go to restaurants and there's tonnes of cutlery, I wind up having to ask for more because the cutlery for later usually gets moved around or placed on the plates when the waiter picks up the finished meal. 

Heavenly

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2007, 04:15:45 PM »
So, if you're only having a salad--you only put a fork on the table?

Spin off of original question...

My MIL doesn't use spoons unless she's eating soup or cereal.  So when we go to her house for dinner, I just make sure that we all have spoons because we like to eat our jello/corn/mashed potatoes/etc. with a spoon.  Should you provide for your eating styles or provide for the possible eating styles of your guests?

FoxPaws

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2007, 04:25:40 PM »
This is a practical as well as etiquette matter. Why create extra dishwashing for utensils that aren't needed?

We set the table to suit what's being served.

Usually just a knife and fork.
Salad forks if we're having company or feeling fancy.
Steak knives for steak.
Spoons for soup, with a regular knife if there's bread and butter to go with it.
Iced tea spoons for those who are drinking tea.
Dessert spoons/forks passed out with the dessert.
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caranfin

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2007, 05:30:19 PM »
We usually fix our plates in the kitchen and grab what we need from the drawer. But if we set the table, we only put out what we're going to use. Why would I put out a spoon or a knife if the meal doesn't require it?
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Heavenly

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2007, 06:11:05 PM »
Quote
In those compentitions, you will get marked down for having the wrong utensils for the menu.

I see how this would pertain to having a seafood fork if you weren't having seafood, or doing the full spread for a simple meal.  However, I'm wondering what etiquette says is polite for a sit down (regular) dinner.  Say you're having meatloaf, salad, and corn.  What do you put on the table?  Does that change if you're having pasta and salad?  Or do you just set with a set amount of utensils?   :)


StuckInCube

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2007, 06:25:56 PM »
We always set the table with the basic knife, fork, and spoon. I guess I've never thought about setting it with less silverware, such as the example of setting just a fork out if you're only having a salad. Our family is weird in that some people like to use a spoon on things I would use a fork for so it's best to put all the silverware out.

If we're having pasta we also set out a large spoon at each place because you can't eat spaghetti without twirling it on the spoon!!

artk2002

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2007, 06:46:57 PM »
Quote
In those compentitions, you will get marked down for having the wrong utensils for the menu.

I see how this would pertain to having a seafood fork if you weren't having seafood, or doing the full spread for a simple meal.  However, I'm wondering what etiquette says is polite for a sit down (regular) dinner.  Say you're having meatloaf, salad, and corn.  What do you put on the table?  Does that change if you're having pasta and salad?  Or do you just set with a set amount of utensils?   :)

As far as I know, it applies to "normal" stuff as well as the odd ones.  If I were serving meatloaf, salad and corn, I'd include knife and fork but probably forgo a spoon.  Same thing for just pasta and salad, because, despite my best efforts, the salad may not be reduced to bite sized -- if the pasta were long or the sauce someone runny, then a spoon would be added.  SOP in our household -- who wants to haul out silverware that's going to either get dirty (not through use, but collateral damage) or just get put away again?

The tablescaping competitions are based around themes (like "Christmas Dinner" or "Afternoon Tea" or "A Pre-game Picnic" or "The California Sesquicentennial" (don't ask!)), so they cover both casual and formal.  And yes, I've seen people marked down for having a soup spoon when soup wasn't on the menu.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

hkkatie

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2007, 09:58:52 PM »
We also just set with what is needed for the meal. Why create more work for ourselves? After all, if you put the silverware out and they don't get used, you still have to wash them... (Ok, I would still wash them, and it's by hand because we don't have a dishwasher.)

edited to add: Yes, if you're just having a salad, you only need a fork. Unless its a chicken salad or something and you would need to cut the meat up a bit more. Or if you have the cherry tomatoes and you'd rather cut them in half than eat them whole... But I rarely use a knife or a spoon when I have salad, so I wouldn't put them out.

Heavenly

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2007, 10:01:52 PM »
I'm getting a lot of personal opinions (which I don't mind)--I'm just wondering what is the official etiquette in these situations.  Does anyone know?

hellgirl

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Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2007, 10:16:08 PM »
Okay - I have pulled out my Miss Manner's book.

She doesn't seem to addres the problem directly - but one letter I found is pretty direct. (quote follows - the book is Guide for the turn of the millennium)

Dear Miss Manners
My boyfriend and I have moved into an apartment together, and every time I set the table I give each of us a fork, spoon and knife. Well, my boyfriend has the idea that if we don't have a dessert, we don't need a spoon on the table. I tell him that it is the proper way of setting the table. This questions has a bet going, so please tell us who is right.

Gentle Reader:
He is. Oh, dear. Miss Manners just hates to spread disharmony at the dinner table by taking sides, and is forced to do so only in the service of Truth in Etiquette. She hopes that the gentleman will be gracious in victory and take into consideration that you are disarmed, now that Miss Manners has taken your spoon away from you.

She also addresses restaurants, basically saying putting out all the silverware is pretentious, and a basic serving set should be provided then things added later as needed. The 'there is no excuse for this' came from the fact that in formal service the menu is planned and known in advance.

So there we go then  :)